By Adam Hensley
There are three games left in Iowa’s regular season.
The Hawkeyes have put together a meager 3-12 conference record, second-worst only to Illinois.
A few months ago, many projected this season’s squad to make a run for the NCAA Tournament. Instead, Iowa languishes one game ahead of last place in the conference, with no hope of going dancing.
On Saturday, Iowa will host Indiana in an afternoon matchup. Both teams enter on streaks on opposite ends of the spectrum — the Hawkeyes have lost their last four, while the Hoosiers are riding a three-game winning streak.
Iowa’s loss to Michigan on Feb. 14 was another chapter in the same-old story featured in the Hawkeye narrative: the Black and Gold just aren’t able to hang with some of the better teams in the Big Ten, plain and simple.
Luka Garza churned out a solid 22-point, 6-rebound performance for Iowa, but aside from his efforts, the offense just was not there. Isaiah Moss scored 12 and Tyler Cook added 10, but there was no consistency offensively.
The Hawkeyes’ sinking ship began taking on water early, as the turnovers began to pile up. Iowa finished the game with 16 giveaways.
“I think what surprised me more was [the] 9 early [turnovers],” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “After that it was 3 and then 4 in the second half. You can live with that. You can’t go on the road and play Michigan and turn it over 9 times in the first nine minutes.”
The Hawkeyes have lost their last four games by an average of 15 points. Factor out the 3-point loss to Michigan State, and Iowa has fallen by an average of 19 points in three of its last four.
The Michigan State loss gave Hawkeye fans hope, showcasing the potential of this team. Iowa fought toe-to-toe with one of the country’s top teams, firing on all cylinders offensively.
But when looking at Iowa’s losses to Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan — all road losses — it’s a very different story.
Iowa has averaged 60.3 points per game in those contests, almost 20 points fewer than what it averaged last season. There has been no offensive balance in those games, resulting in a scrambling defensive effort on the other end.
“You got to come down and get a shot,” McCaffery said. “Then you get your defense back and have a chance. If you’re scrambling in transition, somebody’s going to be open for 3, somebody’s going to get all the way to the rim.”
This is Iowa’s toughest portion of its schedule. Those four games, all but one on the road, proved to be Iowa’s most challenging of the season and rightfully so — a mix of top opponents and harsh road environments didn’t amount to victories.
But at home, Iowa has been competitive recently, which provides a glimmer of hope at the end of a dark tunnel.
The Hawkeyes are 8-5 at home this season; that’s not great, but it’s not terrible, either.
Iowa’s last three home contests include competitive battles, resulting in a 2-1 record.
Iowa smacked both Wisconsin and Minnesota at home before falling it its heartbreaker to Michigan State. In all of those contests, Iowa’s offense has been clicking at full speed, averaging 90.6 points per game.
Indiana hasn’t been good on the road at all this season (much like Iowa), with a 2-7 record in away games.
If Iowa wants a fighting shot at taking down Indiana, which ranks seventh in the conference, it needs to ignite the home-court-charged fire it has played with in its last three contest in Carver-Hawkeye.